Inspired by Color

Christina's spontaneous bread cloth.

Christina’s spontaneous bread cloth.

Sometimes folks ask me what was my favorite issue of Handwoven that I’ve worked on. While other editors might hem and haw and have to maybe come up with a shortlist rather than just one issue, I can answer that question easily: May/June 2013, also known as The Color Issue. I remember seeing the projects for that issue as they arrived in the office and being in awe of each one. Each designer took the theme of Color and applied it in different ways.

Each time I flip through the pages of that issue I am inspired anew to play more with my color choices to take risks as well as notes when I weave something new. Not so long after this issue went to press, I got my beautiful 8-shaft loom. At first my project color choices were timid–I tended to stick with the one color in the warp and one for the weft method. Then, slowly, I began to work with weft stripes. For my first few sets of striped towels–woven as Thanksgiving gifts for my mother and mother-in-law–I actually used a stripe generator to create a random pattern to follow. I wove big, bold stripes in a palette of safe, autumnal colors: reds, golds, greens, and browns.

Over time I’ve gotten bolder with my use of colors and how I apply them. My current favorite was a set of towels and a bread cloth I wove at this most recent Thanksgiving. I used a simple 4-shaft draft that created chevrons in the weft. I could easily change the direction and size of the points with my treadling so I had fun changing the treadling each time I changed colors to create towels full of interest.

For my breadcloth, which was completely unplanned (I had made a miscalculation in my warp and put on too much for two towels but not quite enough for three) I took an even more spontaneous approach. Rather than stick to a few specific colors I grabbed my box of partial bobbins of 8/2 cotton and started weaving. I had a rainbow of colors to choose from and I used them all. I didn’t plan, instead the as soon as I thought a stripe of one color was wide enough I stopped, looked at my choices, and whatever color took my fancy in the moment was the next color I used. I love that bread cloth–it’s a fun and colorful cloth. As an added bonus, I freed up a bunch of bobbins.

The exercise was so fun and freeing I am actually looking forward to filling up a bunch of bobbins throughout 2016 so I can weave another bread cloth next year. I might use the same draft or I might try something different. I know I’ll use something that will lend itself to treadling variations so I can go crazy. If you have a plethora of bobbins partially filled with cotton from an old project I highly suggest adding on a little extra to your next set of towels or napkins and having some fun. If it turns out well then you have a beautiful breadcloth or napkin to show off, if it doesn’t look so great then you have a perfectly functional towels that you won’t feel a lick bad about using to wipe up some spilled marinara.

If you want to learn a bit more about color interaction before you start playing, might I suggest starting with the May/June 2013 issue of Handwoven and one of the many gorgeous projects in it. One such project, Sarah H. Jackson’s stunning summer and winter towels are now available as a kit in limited numbers. The kit contains all the yarn you need to weave these gorgeous towels and see firsthand how beautifully the colors meld together in this easy 4-shaft pattern.

Happy Weaving!


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